Hawaii is moving forward with the bill banning sunscreens harmful to the corals, but what does this mean for tourists?

Hawaii Senate Bill 2571 specifically prohibits the sale and distribution of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate without a prescription. These two chemicals reportedly cause damage to Hawaii's rich marine life.

Choosing The Right Sunscreen

However, oxybenzone is also a chemical that is in more than 3,500 skin-care products, so it's important that tourists should be careful of what sunscreen they're picking up from the store. Check the ingredients before each purchase.

According to Live Science, tourists headed to Hawaii should opt for mineral sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These minerals help protect the skin from the sun's rays without contributing to the coral damage.

"Mineral sunscreens with a high sun protection factor, UVA and UVB protection (the former penetrates the skin more deeply but the latter is more intense and the chief cause of sunburn) are as effective as chemical sunscreens, great for people with sensitive skin or inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, and kinder to marine life," Dr. Catherine Borysiewicz tells The Independent.

Borysiewicz is an NHS consultant trained at Cambridge and UCL. She's also a dermatologist at the award-winning Cadogan Clinic.

A downside? These types of sunscreen often leave a harmless yet somewhat goofy looking white sheen when it's applied to the skin, which is why beach-goers often passed on these products.

Tourists are cautioned against using sunscreen with nano-forms of the minerals, though, as these are found to have a negative effect on phytoplankton.

Environmental Working Group offers a list of sunscreen products that meet their standards, which includes a number of products from popular brands such as Aveeno, Coppertone, Kiehl's, and Neutrogena.

Can The Ban Really Help?

It's not the single problem afflicting the ocean, but with hordes of tourists swimming in Hawaii all year round, even small issues like bad sunscreen are magnified.

"Any little thing we can do could have a huge impact, because corals are getting it from every side," biologist Nikki Traylor-Knowles from the University of Miami explains to Live Science.

In coves and lagoons, the waters can be concentrated with sunscreen rapidly. Traylor-Knowles points out that fish can escape an affected area, but corals are stuck to take the brunt of the damage.

If the Governor David Ige signs the bill, Hawaii's ban on harmful sunscreens begins on Jan. 1, 2021.